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Caius Calpernius Petronius

The Grand Reveal

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Spring 1

 

Date.png20th of Kingsway, 952

Location.pngMinrathous

Characters.pngCaius & Marcella

Players.png@Claire & @Skorge

Requirements.png1x1

Notes.pngAfter multiple "learning" sessions, Caius at last feels confident enough to fully induct the seemingly eager your aspirant, Marcella, into the fold...

Links.png

 

The Night had come. It was a favorite saying of his temple. Soon it would have a new member.

Caius had found himself repeatedly impressed with Marcella. At first she had appeared the curious but understandably scared young daughter of some wealthy home, quick of mind but with too much time on her hands, now turned to the study of shrouded history. After becoming her unofficial mentor on the subject of the Old Gods, her true self had glinted through as she become more familiar with Father Caius. There lay someone bold, daring and clever, though her eagerness remained the same.

And then, they had started sharing a bed.

That part vexed Caius to this very night. When he advances had begun, they had been so subtle as to perfectly slip past his defences, as if she had always been his lover, so thoroughly did her manner remind him of...

No. Marcella was bold, unashamed of her lusts and needs, a spark in her eye for the learning of hidden lore. But she was no Lu, not really. She lacked the cold knife's edge Lucretia had possessed to temper her own fire.

Still, Marcella's fervor was clear, and thus tonight's proceedings had been arranged. She had been told to come to his manor as usual, but had not found Caius there, but two of his men, who had jumped the woman and blindfolded her. Rude, but needed. Marcella had been taken here, to the underground complex of his temple in the capital, now she stood before him in a circular, dimly lit chamber of stone, torches all around to light the dragon statues. He no longer wore the robes of a father, but a high priest.

He motioned for the blindfold to be removed. It spoke greatly of Marcella that she had not struggled vainly or cried. In fact, when the fold came away, she looked angry more than afraid. Lucretia indeed.

 

 

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It was what they had been waiting for, yet Marcella only felt dread when she was abducted. She knew she was being taken to some secret place of the cult and as much as she tried to recall the twists and turns they had been prepared for that and made it impossible, even for a Shade. So it was she did as expected of the woman Caius had taught, she appeared angry. It was not such an act really, since when she laid eyes upon him and then the dragons statues she was truly angry, seeing such heresy and treachery would put any Shade into a fury.

"What is the meaning of this?!" She all but shouted. "And where am I?" She asked, her tone a little less vexed.

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Before answering, Caius waved a hand. The two cultists holding her arms let go, bowed and vanished into the shadows that were the purview of their temple.

They were not alone, but it would seem so to Marcella surely.

Caius began to pace about the chamber.

"You are in our sanctum here, my friend. The time has come to part the veil and banish the shadow, if only for a moment long enough to grant understanding. You must understand, you are suited for a much grander path that you perhaps knew. This was revealed to me, slowly, over the course of our meetings. Your interest, I could see your approval of the Old Ways and my lord Lusacan whispered to me of your fervor. You are worthy of upholding an ancient, honorable legacy, Marcella. You have proved it. I want you ro join us."

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Marcella was a Shade and she possessed powers so eerily close to the Lusacan clerics she would feel violated when she discovered it. Thus she saw those cloaked by shadow but she did not make it known. Instead her gaze remained on Caius, listening to him and reacting as expected. Narrowing her gaze at first then widening her eyes, she looked towards the statues again and murmured, "The old religion... it lives..." It was with seeming respect and awe that she spoke, her eyes flicking towards Caius again.

"You wish me to... join you?" What would it entail? This worried Marcella, for she wondered if they had the means to discover her treachery. Or if her induction into this cult would mar her forever?

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"It does. And we do."

Caius stepped towards her now, clever eyes taking her on.

"But know that it will require a test."

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Freezing, worried she might fail and be revealed as the spy that she was Marcella asked, "What kind of test?" She did not recoil from him but she was clearly afraid, seemingly only just realising the gravity of her situation. The anger seemed to be sucked from her yet there was also steel there for she did not faint nor beg nor lose herself. 

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Caius very pointedly did not even bother suggesting what would happen if she refused. Overt threats had never been his way, nor would be insult Marcella's intelligence by spelling it out. The temples must remain secret.

"Our way is just, but not yet ready to be unveiled, but soon. We more than any of our brothers, we who pay homage to Lusacan above all the rest, have grown adept at hiding ourselves. Your test shall be one of shadows. Not fur us the glory of the golden charge, but the pragmatist."

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Relaxing slightly Marcella felt more comfortable with shadows, though she could no fathom what they expected what they thought a novice could do. Still, she had come this far and even if she was some weeks or months or even years from knowing locations she was closer than any Shade (or any outsider) had ever come. So she could not falter now.

"Where and how do I begin." She asked, her pragmatic self rising to the surface.

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"The first step will be easy enough. You will enter a second sanctum and meditate on the darkness, its meaning all around you."

There was more to it than that, but such would not be revealed yet.

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"Am I properly attired?" She asked, for she saw he had changed and she did not want to assume she should not be in some other robes. Marcella had no idea what to expect, she was genuinely at a disadvantage here, so she had to tread carefully and listen to everything he said and try to hear the things he did not say as well.

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Caius gave a grin.

When Marcella entered the inner sanctum, she wore a sleeveless black tunic and equally dark pants, none of the robes she had seen him or the others wear. She would meld perfectly with the darkness. And it was indeed dark. The chamber she entered and was locked inside, alone, was black. The walls could not be seen, nor the ceiling. However a thin beam of light filtered down through a point in the ceiling to shine on a single spot in the very center of the room. There was a pillow here, for her to sit on.

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Still unsure about what she was supposed to do she took the hint and sat on the pillow. This was their initiation so all she could do was follow their lead, since Caius had not revealed anything about his cult nor their secret rituals. Marcella supposed if they were simply leading her like a lamb to the slaughter, then so be it. She had no other choice, after all.

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Once she sat on the pillow, the space seemed to grow even more still, if that was possible. The shadows crept in closer, the single light above dying away until only Marcella and half her arm's length around her was visible to the eye.

It was peaceful. Exposed, but peaceful. The darkness seemed depthless now, as if she sat not in a small chamber, but a void. Partly this was the effort of one of Caius's men, weaving the shadows tighter with his magic.

But then, just as it seemed Marcella might sink into the half-slumber the room induced, something more quickly in the shadows to her left. A form, a man in robes and a black mask, dashed for her, arms out to grasp forcefully. She had not even noticed his slow approach, or that he had even been in the chamber when she entered.

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Even when almost lulled into a slumber Marcella remained alert, it was an intrinsic part of Shade training, to always be ready. Her instinct upon seeing the attacker was to slip into the shadows, so that was exactly what she did, but without using magic at all. Instead she got as far from the light as possible and evaded the attacker simply using her other senses. Marcella, once again, had exceptional training in this, long before being taught shadow magic the Shade novices were taught to blend into existing darkness and use it to their benefit. This was what she did not. Yet in the forefront of her mind was the warning - she could not show too much of her abilities. She was a Chantry Father's daughter and a mediocre Circle student, so what she did had to seem instinctual, not taught. Thus she continued to evade, assuming capture would mean death.

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Unlike the targets she might have tried on as a Shade, this cloaked assailaint knew the shadows as well, if not more, than she did.

He stood frozen where she had sat, but using some arcane sense, he zeroed in on where she prowled, and lunged again.

Arms that were clearly powerful under those black robes grabbed at her arm and twisted her back into the light.

"Fight." hissed the man, a monotone that prevented identification."Or die."

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Having no choice, it seemed, she had to reveal her martial talents. So, taking a dagger at her belt meant for use in magic she disengaged from the cultist and then spun and slashed at their thigh. Not waiting to see if she'd hurt them she rolled to the side and continued to keep them in front of her, never moving side on or turning her back. Again she attacked, darting forward and stabbing at the cloaked figure, this time aiming for the belly. She could have gone for the chest but there was no way to know if they were armoured and the knife she used would require strength and accuracy she could not conjure to pierce the chest. So she aimed for the soft spots, seeking to injure and maim.

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Her skill took both of her now apparent assailants by surprise, and while they had a shadow-mage's ability to track her, the one she aimed for did not share her martial skill.

Her blade pierced black robes and the soft tissue beneath. Disabling rather than killing. A scream of pain barked out from the hood and he collapsed onto the floor.

But the second man was on her, using his comrade's misfortune to slip around Marcella. The arms that entangled her from behind were not frail, like those of the wounded man's had been. She felt hard muscle tighten around her, and a familiar voice in her ear.

"Good. You pass." said Caius from under his hood.

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Even if she had tried to use her skills to free herself of Caius' grip she'd not have been able too, such was his hold upon her. Instead Marcella did not try to escape, she merely waited for further instructions - though she had a wry smile on her lips, they'd shown her how they used shadow magic, something the Shades had not known anyone else possessed. If she managed to survived this initiation and get back to the Compound then Marcella would have much to report. Still she had not idea about the entrance to this place and neither did she have definitive proof against Caius, so it was far too early to even think about the end of this mission and the fall of the Temple of Lusacan.

"What now?" She asked, determined to see this through, if only to prove that she was not some frail daughter of a Chantry Father.

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That much was obvious now, and she would have been able to read the speculation in Caius's eyes upon her. He had seen her body thoroughly, so that lingering gaze was made more intimate for it. Desperation to survive might lend a person strength or unexpected reserved of force - indeed that was expected of this very test - but what Marcella had displayed was true martial training.

And no one had seen her slip a knife in with her.

"This test is intended to show you what we are about, Marcella. Meditation and prayer has its place, but complacency can get you killed if your mind is in the clouds, rather than focused on the task. You have shown awareness. Come. True communion is next."

With that, another door in the dark chamber opened into a room lit by torches, and Caius led her into it.

She never did see anyone come for the man she had wounded.

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She felt his eyes upon her and she had to wonder what sort of "communion" he was referring to. Though she felt unease she did not show it, but instead followed where he led. It was difficult to tell what direction they went and all the halls looked the same with no indication of where in the city they might be. That they were still in Minrathous she was sure, they had not travelled for long enough to have left the capital. It was impossible for her to be able to retrace her steps because of the sameness of the temple, so instead she concentrated on what was before her.

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This new room was not in shadow, and Caius did not leave her.

What she found looked like an archaic version of a Chantry chapel or temple, clearly built to old Imperial specifications. Which was not too alien to imagine, even if a proper Mother might have decried its form in the service of Old Gods as heresy. After all, had not the practices of the Chantry also grown from Imperial roots, as much else did? Maybe not the faith itself, buts the ways in which humans expressed religion, certainly.

Much like a Chantry hall, this stone hall was shaped as a long central walkway lined with seats, all leading towards a central altar. It was presided over by gargoyle-like statues above, glaring down upon the supplicant. 

But these paled before the huge dragon statue placed at the room's head, where in a Chantry Andraste would have stood. The statue was the size of a live drake, slightly larger, and carved with aching attention to detail, each scale and line distinct, its features fierce and regal.

"Here he is." Caius whispered, as though the statue of his god had ears to listen with.

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As beautiful as the temple was the heresy she saw with every seat and stone and statue made her want to cough up bile and spit! Marcella was ridged as she walked, stiff with anger, and heading towards the ominous dragon that loomed over them. This has to be Lusacan, Dragon of Night - old god of Shadows.

To show she was being "respectful" Marcella forced herself to bow, to kneel, to supplicate, but with every movement she hated herself for having to do any of this. It had been easier to fuck Caius then bend the knee to a false god!

 

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Caius held her shoulders all the while, and felt the muscles there tense. He had, of course, seen her naked and knew her to be fit, athletic even, but that was nothing strange. Now he knew it was because of real training.

But he did not think the reaction one of anger. Just nerves with the weight of the situation.

"Speak the words I taught you, and it will be done."

It would be no more than that, because honestly, anyone who made it this far had best already proved themselves. This was a formality. Much like asking a maiden for her hand in marriage, so it was with inducting new cultists; Do not ask before you feel certain the answer will be a yes.

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How she managed to speak those words she knew not, but she did it, all the time in her heart reciting the Chant of Light. Never before had Marcella been so devout, but now she saw just how dangerous this religion was, how powerful it was, the threat it was frightened her. Could the Shades crush this? With so much secrecy and lacking trust with outsiders how could they ever find a way in? How could she give them a way?

Feeling the weight of that responsibility on her shoulders she remained on her knees long after finishing the words Caius had prompted her to speak. In her mind she prayed that she could do right by the Imperium and be the tool the Shades used to break open this pit of snakes and then burn them. Burn them all.

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Once Caius had allowed her the appropriate time to consider Lusacan's presence, he raised her back up and turned her about to look into her eyes, reading a fiercness there but missreading its source.

"You are one of us now, Marcella, and I am proud of you. I saw your potential and you have proved yourself strong of will and purpose. You have my sincere gratitude for this, my friend." he said, and in those words she could read the easy un-bombastic charisma that made him the leader he was to his followers.

"You will go on as you always have, no overt changes will be done to your daily life." he said, as this was a common worry of new members, thinking they had to somehow disappear from the public eye, watched as it was by the Chantry. But that would have been truly suspicious, would it not? "You are welcome to visit me at any time to learn more, and we will only call on you when your services are required. But when the call comes, our Lord shall expect you to answer with a full heart and soul."

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